The Nigerian government announced on Friday it was suspending Twitter’s operations after it deleted a post by the country’s president. Nigeria’s mobile phone networks blocked access after being ordered to do so, but some users are getting around the Twitter ban by using VPN’s.
Nigeria’s Information Minister has warned that the government will prosecute anyone found to have breached the country’s ban on Twitter. He also ordered the country’s broadcast commission to compel all so-called over-the-top media services and social-media operations in Nigeria to apply for permits to operate.
His government said on Saturday the presidents tweet’s removal was “disappointing”, but not the only reason for the Twitter ban.
“There has been a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had real world violent consequences,” the government Information Minister said.
Twitter on Friday said the announcement of the ban by Information Minister Lai Mohammed was “deeply concerning”.
Twitter being used to undermine “Nigeria’s corporate existence”
In a statement, Justice Minister Abubakar Malami said he had “directed for immediate prosecution of offenders of the Federal Government ban on Twitter operations in Nigeria”, telling the public prosecutor to “swing into action”.
The message was targeted at both corporations and individuals, the minister’s spokesperson Umar Gwandu told the BBC.The government of Nigeria alleges that Twitter was being used to undermine “Nigeria’s corporate existence”.
The platform was allowing “the spread of religious, racist, xenophobic and false messages” that “could tear some countries apart”, a spokesperson said.
The national broadcasting regulator, NBC, had been told to begin “licensing all internet streaming services and social media operations in Nigeria”, a government statement said.
Earlier, the professional body of Nigerian mobile phone operators – known as Alton – confirmed they had been told to stop people getting on to Twitter. The group said its members had complied with the government order due to “national interest provisions” in Nigerian telecoms law and licensing terms.
Which Countries Censor Twitter?
While most countries don’t bother with trying to influence any social media to remove or censor content, there are some who do. Some of the countries on the list were to be expected, as repression of journalism and free speech are commonplace in those regions of the world. Others have only certain issues with how social media is operated, and finally, some are countries that officially champion free speech as a value, but the government is sometimes at odds with certain movements or statements that were somehow deemed to be derogatory, inflammatory, or harmful in some other way.
1. Twitter censorship in China
Although Twitter is banned in China, with the favor of the government being with the countries own Sina Weibo microblogging platform, Twitter still reports between 10 and 35 million users coming from the PRC. Users are unable to access the website or the app using local IP addresses and are forced to use VPN services to even search tweets or any content from the platform.
2. Twitter censorship in North Korea
Although any access to Twitter in North Korea is punishable by law since 2016, this hasn’t resulted in a significant drop in the global number of users as there were few with internet access in the hermit nation in the first place. Since the ban, even foreigners with special permits are not allowed to access Twitter from the country and would be unable to do so from the few access points available. Maybe you shouldn’t risk it?
While there is a possibility to use a VPN to circumvent these restrictions, any travelers to N. Korea are not advised to do so as most internet access points are heavily monitored and using a VPN alone is punishable by law.
3. Twitter censorship in Russia
While Russia is generally known to have a very low tolerance level for any media coverage of the opposition, the country has avoided banning or censoring Twitter for the most part. The biggest incident came in the first half of 2014 with Russia demanding Twitter to ban a pro-Ukrainian account or to make it invisible for Russian users. This has later grown to multiple accounts or individual tweets that were deemed to break Russian law. Any user in Russia who wanted to access that Twitter account needed to use a VPN from any other country.
Finally, Twitter banned a hacking collective in July of the same year for leaking several documents of the Kremlin to the media, which breached both the Russian law and Twitter’s own terms of service.
People traveling to Russia should consider that due to Russia banning many online services and pages, some apps might be unavailable using a Russian ISP (internet service provider), especially for iOS. Because of this, travelers should use the best VPN for iPhone or Android that they can find, and always keep the app ON when connecting to a local WiFi.
4. Twitter censorship in Iran
While most people believe that North Korea bans most websites through their ISP, this title actually goes to Iran, which has been increasing the number of sites blocked steadily since 2009. Twitter was banned in 2009 following protests that were organized through this platform, and the new government never lifted the ban. Users that are living in, or traveling to Iran, are highly recommended to use a VPN, as the internet service providers (ISP) in this country are suspected of monitoring any communication and deny access to most popular global platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram.
Users in Iran need to use VPN to both access the internet freely and to mask their IP location, staying anonymous and safe.
5. Twitter censorship in Pakistan
While Pakistan allows users inside the country to access Twitter freely, they have demanded that all kinds of words, phrases, and even entire accounts be blocked or removed due to them being ‘’blasphemous”. This has mostly focused on domestic topics and removal of any anti-Islamic notions from the platform but has strangely also impacted atheist and Wiccan accounts.
Any user in Pakistan is strongly advised always to use a VPN and stay anonymous while tweeting, as multiple issues could be deemed blasphemous and would result in legal punishment.
6. Twitter censorship in India
While India doesn’t usually meddle with censorship of any social media, they have requested for the spoof accounts of the Prime Minister of India to be deleted in 2012, following the violence in Assam. Several accounts impersonating the PMs official account, or any account impersonating the then PM Manmohan Singh, were removed from the platform.
7. Twitter censorship in Egypt
There is currently no part of Twitter that is being banned or censored in Egypt, which is a stark difference with the situation prior, and especially during the Arab Spring in Egypt, and the massive protests that have occurred against the then president Hosni Mubarak, who was by that moment ruling the country for thirty years. Twitter became inaccessible through local ISP providers in January 25th, 2011, with many users switching to VPN to live stream and tweet what is on the ground. Just two days later the domestic ISPs disabled all internet access to and from the country, leaving all Egyptians without internet. To combat this, Twitter joined with Google and SayNow to allow Egyptian users to send in their tweets via voicemail and to listen to comments in the same way.
Once the protests succeeded and the government was changed, all restrictions on the internet in this nation were removed. Users in the country are still advised to use a VPN, but more for personal reasons such as identity security and cybersecurity, not government oppression.
8. Twitter censorship in Venezuela
Although the service itself was still active, during the Venezuelan Riots in 2014, all images from the country were blocked, including those on Twitter. This was to prevent the current government narrative that there was only a handful of protestors from collapsing. As Twitter gave the users in Venezuela an option to work around this issue by using phone messages, freedom of expression in the country was preserved, and it was shown that most of the country was in disarray.
9. Twitter censorship in South Korea
While the government of South Korea isn’t known for banning and blocking websites, there are currently about 65 URLs that are inaccessible while using a South Korean IP address, one of which is the official Twitter account of North Korea with the handle @uriminzok, which roughly translates to ‘’our people” in Korean. As S. Korea deemed that most of which can be seen on the twitter account profile were propaganda, the country banned the access to both Korean and English versions of the profile.
Currently, you need to use a VPN with a server outside of South Korea to visit the Twitter of their northern neighbors, who’s twitter page in English has gained more than 50 thousand followers so far.
10. Twitter censorship in France
In January of 2013, a series of anti-Semitic posts were made on Twitter, all in French. Although these posts were promptly deleted from Twitter as they violate the Terms of Service, the Union of Jewish Students of France, UEJF (French: Union des étudiants Juifs de France), has filed a lawsuit. The goal was to force Twitter to disclose the user information of the users to the general public as the content was determined to be hate speech by the French law. For any non-compliance the company would be charged around $1300 each day, which was finally impossible to enforce, as Twitter has no offices or personnel in the Republic.
11. Twitter censorship in the United States of America
Last but not least, the base country of Twitter, the good ol’ land of the free and the home of the brave. There are only a few instances of the federal government ever directly influencing Twitter in order to ban or delete content. The company itself is biased slightly to Californian standards when it comes to politics, and has been found to be more lenient to the representatives of the policies they support, with regular bans for accounts that have been deemed to spread hate by Twitter alone.
The only direct ruling from the Federal Court was that the President, Donald Trump, isn’t able to block anyone from his personal twitter handle, although he is able to mute people and is under the same protection from harassment like any other user.
Source: BBC, Le-VPN